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Attack the Block follows an unlucky young woman and a gang of tough inner city kids who make an unlikely alliance to try to defend their turf against an invasion of savage alien creatures, turning a South London apartment complex into an intergalactic war-zone.Written by
Refreshingly small-scale alien invasion horror film
Alien invasions are a dime a dozen these days. Studios feel self-assured that the public takes note on the calendar every time a movie promises to lay waste to a major metropolis at the hands of angered or ruthless extraterrestrials.
So with studios trying to one-up each other by expanding the scope of skyscraper carnage, what a peculiar choice for Joe Cornish to go microcosm and set "Attack the Block" in a small sector of South London.
Budget limitations might have capped Cornish's threshold for mayhem, but based on the tone of his film, he wouldn't have used bigger funds to up the scale of destruction. He offers us "Attack the Block" as character and horror-driven counter-programming to today's invasion blockbusters.
The alien menace in this film is markedly different, as are its protagonists, an inherently unlikable gang of South London teens. While they're mugging a woman (Jodie Whittaker), a strange creature crashes on the street right next to them. When it lashes out, the boys promptly kill it and then drag it to the drug dealer (Nick Frost) living in their block in hopes of finding out what it is and upping their street cred, but soon after, several shadowy beasts with glowing blue teeth fall from the sky and bound after them.
Most of the action takes place in or around the block, and few people other than the central characters get roped into the invasion. In that sense the film plays out more as a horror film in which the gang (and coincidentally the woman they mugged) must fend off and outsmart the creatures, who are trying to pick them off. Cornish balances suspense, action and gore to keep the genre a bit more ambiguous.
What's most impressive about the story is that the characters grow on us over time. Normally it's hard to care about the characters in a horror or alien invasion film unless they are well developed, but here's a case in which the characters truly develop as the film wears on and by the end we're quite fond of them.
John Boyega as the gang leader, Moses, steals the show. He has the look and temperament of a young Denzel Washington. Although we never truly understand who he is—at least not until near the end—we sense the pain behind his eyes and his life's frustrations as he stands up to the aliens. Other characters, notably Pest (Alex Esmail) serve to add comedy and diversify the personalities to make the film more interesting.
Parts of the film drag and much of what happens could be deemed predictable, but Cornish puts a certain spirit into the film, not to mention a greater social message about how to treat other people that most big-budget films tend to graze over. Combined with some fun stylization to the action and events, this is the kind of film that's easy to root for, even if its far from mind-blowing.
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